According to a notification by the poll panel, voting for the four bodies will take place on February 12 instead of January 22. The commission, however, is yet to announce when the votes will be counted. A senior poll panel official said counting may be done on February 15.
The Calcutta high court on Friday told the state election commission (SEC) to consider postponing civic elections by four to six weeks. A division bench headed by chief justice Prakash Shrivastava also told the commission to take a decision within a period of 48 hours.
“We welcome the (state) election commission’s decision. The Calcutta high court directed the panel to consider postponing the polls. The state government informed the commission that it has no objection if polls were deferred keeping in mind public safety. The poll panel postponed it. We will abide by the decision,” said Saugata Roy, TMC MP.
Elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation were held on December 19. The state election commission earlier scheduled polls to four civic bodies, Asansol, Bidhannagar, Siliguri and Chandannagar for January 22, Counting was scheduled to be held on January 25.
But with Covid-19 cases rising alarmingly, a petition was filed in the high court to seek directions to the state election commission to put off the polls.
“We had appealed to the commission to defer the polls as Covid-19 cases have risen alarmingly in the state. In this situation, free and fair elections can’t be held as people would be scared to go to the polling station. Later many other (political parties) echoed us. The Calcutta high court directed the poll panel to postpone the elections by four to six weeks. It has been postponed by three weeks. We thank the commission,” said Sukanta Majumdar, president of the BJP’s state unit.
According to union health ministry data on Saturday, Bengal has 1,45,483 active Covid cases.
On Thursday the state government told the court that once the election dates were announced, the state government has no role and only the poll panel could defer it. The poll panel, on the other hand, informed the court that the commission does not have the power to defer the election dates once the dates have been notified unless the state government declares such a disaster or an emergency which will make it impossible to hold such election.
“This could have been announced earlier. But instead, the state government and the poll panel pushed the ball to each other’s court. Now that the high court has ordered they were left with no option,” said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha.